"The World and Japan" Database (Project Leader: TANAKA Akihiko)
Database of Japanese Politics and International Relations
National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (IASA), The University of Tokyo

[Title] Communique of Teruko Kanehira, Leader of the Asian Woment's Fund Mission to the Republic of Korea

[Date] January 11, 1997
[Source] Digital Museum: Comfort Women Issue and Asian Women's Fund
[Notes] downloaded on Feb 1, 2018
[Full text]

11 January 1997

Teruko Kanehira

Leader of the Asian Women's Fund Mission

to the Republic of Korea

Today, January 11, 1997, the Asian Women's Fund began its projects of apology and atonement for seven former "wartime comfort women" residing in Seoul. Beginning at 2 p.m. at the Plaza Hotel, I, Teruko Kanehira (former Vice-Governor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government), representing the Fund, presented Ms. Kimiko Kaneda (assumed name) and each of four other women with a letter of apology from the Prime Minister of Japan, a letter from the President of the Asian Women's Fund, and a message from the Japanese people. I visited the other two women in their homes and presented them with the same documents. The names of the seven women are not being released. The presentation ceremony at the hotel was attended by the Chairperson of the AWF Advisory Committee, Soji Takasaki; two committee members, Kuniko Nonaka and Shigeru Nakajima; and two staff members from the Fund's Secretariat. The atonement money was presented, and medical and welfare support projects will be carried out separately.

The letter from Ms. Kimiko Kaneda to the AWF President, stating her desire to accept project benefits, was received on December 16 last year. Letters to the same effect from the six other women were subsequently received, on December 24. The Fund was deeply concerned that groups in the Republic of Korea maintained their opposition to the Fund and that, as a result, the Fund continued to find it impossible to obtain support for its projects. And yet, the Fund was extremely concerned about the fact that, within a half year of the initiation of its projects in the Philippines, two of the nine people who accepted benefits from Fund projects had died. It was therefore decided to implement projects as soon as possible for elderly victims in the Republic of Korea who had expressed their intention to receive benefits from Fund projects. After an examination of different ways through which this could be achieved, the projects were launched in the Republic of Korea today, although in an urgent and provisional manner.

The seven women who accepted benefits from the Fund's projects today were forced to become "comfort women" at comfort stations established upon the request of the former Japanese military. They experienced incurable trauma, and after the war lived ignored, in silence, for 45 years. Over the past five years, they have criticized Japan's actions and asked for an apology and compensation. We believe that their acceptance of the letter from Japan's Prime Minister and the letter from the AWF President indicates some appreciation on their part for the recent expressions of acknowledgement, remorse, apology and atonement of the Japanese Government and people. The fact that Halmeoni who had suffered so much came forward and expressed their criticism was instrumental in our turning our eyes to the past, and in the changes that have been made to date. The Fund will work hard to ensure that the Japanese people as a whole increasingly realize the necessity of an apology and atonement regarding the "wartime comfort women" issue, and to discover more materials on the issue and reveal the truth.

We sincerely hope that victims in the Republic of Korea who were forced to become "wartime comfort women," as well as members of concerned groups and the Korean people, will understand and accept the feelings of the Japanese Government and people that are bound up in today's launch of Fund projects. We also hope that the opportunity provided today will be taken up to create an environment in which the Fund's projects can be implemented smoothly in the Republic of Korea. Our feelings of responsibility, remorse, apology and atonement for the past are essential in building relations of trust and cooperation between the peoples of Japan and the Republic of Korea. We firmly believe that the efforts of the Asian Women's Fund to address the "wartime comfort women" issue represent one step toward this goal.